Graduation day for Madeline is suddenly, finally, sadly, proudly, undeniably here. I wake up at 6 am without an alarm, my mind flooded with memories.
Those first fear-filled days with our plugged-in baby at Good Samaritan's NICU. The unexpected kindness of colleagues at the Enquirer: EJ's generous gift, Sue Mac's sock monkey, Kitty Morgan bringing a party to our hospital guest room. And the amazing support and friendship of Alliea Phipps who lifted our spirits with an unforgettable ride in her convertible and became a friend for life.
It's so strange to remember that Madeline's flight of life came so close to never getting off the ground.
And from there so many happy moments.
Her instant fascination with bugs and utter non-fear of the locust invasion. She even put those bugs in her dollhouse!
Her hilarious "purple girl" dance to the Big Butt song from the Shrek movie. The friendship she inspired between us and Kisha and our families.
Her goofy mispronunciations of new vocabulary words. Her odd fascination with Lithuania.
I remember the things we built for Madeline and then also for Rori. Refurbishing Jackie's crib in Keith's back yard. Painting the school desks and chairs. Building the bunk beds. Building a toy stable for her toy horses.
Horses played a big role in shaping Madeline's life. She ached to ride them and loved her horse camp experiences. She played with them. She learned to draw so she could draw them. She discovered her love for genetics by creating an elaborate game using dozens of hand-colored, cut-out horses.
And soon she leaves to study genetics at Ohio Wesleyan University. A career in science is calling.
And so many other adventures. Her hand print in a concrete stone. Her awful job of learning to ride a bike. Her dabbles in soccer and swim teams. Her actual enjoyment of ultimate frisbee.
Her walking on the beach hand in hand with Rori. Trips to Disney, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Seattle and London. Our way too early attempt at taking the kids camping.
And the music. Madeline's clarinet became a magic wand of fun and friendship for her. Marching Band was everything during high school...band camp...parades...halftime shows...competitions. She shared the stage in Wind Ensemble with Hope, her best friend, and stayed good friends with Maddy from Mason who also played clarinet. The clarinet even took her to Carnegie Hall. It is deeply satisfying to know that she has a network of diverse and brilliant friends from her Marching Band days who will be important parts of her life for years to come.
I will always be impressed by her personal diligence. We never had to make her do homework. We never had to tell her to practice. She has driven herself more than we ever could. I see so much potential in that for her.
I will long remember her art as well. The horses. The wolves. The wolves with wings and magic tails. Entire families of horses and wolves. And a world of Pokemon characters. And studies of eyes and wings and hands. She worked at her art. And that will serve her well.
Madeline came first so she started a great deal of the structure of our family life. So many visits from Jack and Mickey. Wonderful trips to visit Jim and Faye. So much love and support from Chris Mike and Jani. So many nice holidays.
We also have realized that many of our friendships -- with the Drauts, the Davises, the Lovins, the Jasons, Rick and Kirsten, the Wares, the Coopers and others -- trace directly to raising Madeline and carry on with Rori.
So much of our lives have revolved around her. So much time effort and money invested in her. We moved from young adults to old farts on this journey. So much of the success or failure of our lives is linked to how things work out for her. We didn't really plan it that way and would never pressure her with such a burden. But there it is.
And now comes graduation. Six incredible life-transforming years at Walnut Hills comes to its conclusion.
Our first moments in that auditorium when Madeline and all the other little 7th graders -- Effies -- were introduced to the school were unforgettable. The slideshow of so many outstanding graduates. The millions in alumni gifts. The expectations of excellence. The feeling of generations of students and parents sharing these same seats for countless plays and concerts and speeches and ceremonies. A great river of tradition and striving and success. We cried that day. We're crying again today. We are so lucky to be part of the Walnut tradition, to contribute to it in some small way.
I dont know if Madeline's photo and bio will ever share space in the hallway trophy cases with the great city leaders, senators, lawyers, scientists and artists whose Walnut Hills legacy reaches back to the 1800s. But it might actually happen. And wouldn't that be something?
As Dr. Seuss so aptly said..."Oh the places she'll go!"